With Oscar buzz beginning to ripen and many movie fans beginning to print out their scorecards for predictions, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is heading into its time of the hour. The nominations are in, and the show is being produced and overanalyzed, but something worth taking a moment and smelling the roses, is the realization of progress to be found in the Academy's evolvement. Not only do we have first time directors up for nomination this year, not only has the Academy nominated a woman for best director, not only is a black man nominated for best director and best screenplay, not only is there a transgender woman nominated for best documentary, not only did all this happen, but they all have a chance at winning.
The Academy in years past, much like the rest of the societal infrastructure, has been favorable to the ever so popular white man. This is not to say that some of these men were undeserving of their praise as men like Mr. Spielberg always are, but this is to say that the Academy has struggled to be anything that remotely resembles that of diversity in years past. The Academy has begun to recruit new members to its board of council in years past, and it is paying dividends in considerable ways. Yes, it is fantastic to see the Academy providing equal and worthy recognition to filmmakers who were unabashedly unafraid to express their concerns upon discrimination, but the Academy will most likely see an uptick in viewership come March 4th. This increase of diversity will lead to a diverse crowd that will be rooting for their home team to bring the big one home which, much like a sports drama, is universally appealing.
The Academy deserves to be shrouded with praise, but the Academy should also welcome some deserved criticism. While this is a big success for diversity, this is a win that should’ve come a long time ago. It’s a bittersweet victory for those who find themselves apart of a minority because the nominations show progress but its progress that is long overdue. There have been sparks and spurts of hope with films like “Brokeback Mountain” winning best director and best screenplay at the 78th Academy Awards, but these brief moments of jubilee have been overrun by the championing of white men in film. Yes, there is a separate category for women, but these categories have always felt unabashedly unequal in significance. The point to take home is that it’s incredible to see the evolvement of the Academy, but it should have come a long time ago.
The other noticeable lack of advancement to be noticed is the lack of genre diversity. This is a much more insignificant flaw that was noticeable to movie fans, but its one that continues to irk most of us nerds. Watching “Logan” get a single nomination for adapted screenplay, and watching “Wonder Woman” go completely unnoticed is both upsetting and baffling. Are they deserving of being proclaimed as the single two best films of the year, that is up for debate, but they deserve recognition for the cultural and genre impact. Maybe not the best picture nom, but something deserving of their quality of filmmaking.
But it’s not just superhero movies, as some great sci-fi and horror films have gone entirely unnoticed as well like that of “IT,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Some recognition has been given to a few of them, but some of these films are deserving of much higher prestige for their sheer astonishment as a film and a story. The Academy should always be giving those small movies a boost of recognition because they are deserving of some financial assistance, but box office success needs to account for something at the most prominent award show for filmmaking. Maybe not best picture noms, but something should be done for some films that have impacted audiences in a more viable fashion than any other movie.
In summary, the Academy has come a long way and is continuing to evolve as we do as movie fans, but some of these progressions are long overdue, and the Academy still has a long way to go in becoming a premier must watch awards show once again. For many of my non-nerd friends, the Academy doesn’t spark excitement in them because they have never heard of any of the nominations and the films they love never get nominated for big awards. I, as a self-proclaimed movie aficionado, resonate with that plea for recognition because I am of the opinion that “Logan” is a far superior film than most of the nominations for best picture. Nonetheless, March 4th looks to be an exciting night, but one that will be worth a great deal of reflection when the last speech reaches its final word. The Academy still has a long road ahead of them, but one that will only be continued if we continue to push as fans of the cinema.